CambodiaGenocideNever ForgetRefugeeSurvivorWhat We Carried

Photographs, Chongkal, Cambodia

Jim Lommasson
Jim Lommasson / What We Carried

Saron Khut:

In 1980 my mother, my sister and I escaped Cambodia carrying only a few things, as we walked to the Lumpook refugee camp in Thailand.  My father was killed by the Khmer Rouge.

The medallion is the only jewelry my mother had with her when we walked to the refugee camp. It is an ivory carving of the Chinese zodiac year of the pig, the year she was born.

When we got to the camp my aunt and cousins were there. We had been separated since the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975 and we did not know who was alive or dead until we met each other at the refugee camp in 1980. My aunt and cousins are currently living in France.

One year later I was born. As a child I was fortunate to have a tricycle with a two seater. My father’s best friend, Uncle Tal, had his first child, Kim aka Mub, who is in the back seat of my tricycle. Uncle Tal and his family escaped the Khmer Rouge and immigrated to France where they are currently living.

My parents were married in 1969 in a small town called Changka, Cambodia. My father serenaded my mother with a song called “Bopha Khal Chroy,” which translates as flower/woman of Khal Chroy (town/village)